Flexible Storage for Small Businesses - 05 Aug 2007

NAS is an affordable option

Small businesses and flexible storage rarely go together. Because small businesses tend to lack internal IT support and therefore rarely perform backups, making storage solutions flexible for a small company can be difficult. In addition to technical issues, you might also need to consider budgetary constraints. Most small businesses are loath to spend money on technology that doesn’t provide an immediate benefit.

One of my clients recently needed to quickly increase their available storage. The problem started when their insurance company decided that they needed to install surveillance cameras. The consultant they hired for the project recommended that they use a computer-based system to record all of the activity from the nine cameras to the network server drive. Not surprisingly, the captured data quickly filled up the available server space--and they called me for help.

I reviewed their video surveillance hardware and software and determined that I could make a major configuration change that would save significant storage space. That is, the surveillance system could be configured to use the motion-sensor capabilities to record and timestamp video only when there was actually something to capture. This change reduced the amount of storage space required by the video by a third over the following week.

However, the company needed the ability to add storage as they determined how much space an average week’s worth of stored video would demand. In addition, they needed to be able to store the video for 30 days. Therefore, they needed to be able to back up the storage or have sufficient online storage to maintain a reliable copy of the data.

Because the client doesn’t have onsite IT support, I wanted to make sure that they had the storage they needed and that they could easily meet their insurer’s requirements. I was concerned that a practical solution would be out of their price range. But a little research led me to a simple, cost-effective solution that directly met their storage needs: inexpensive NAS.

Although users tend to think of NAS storage as a multi-thousand dollar investment, several very capable small-business-focused NAS solutions exist in the $500 to $1,500 range. I used Buffalo Technology’s TeraStation Pro II (http://www.buffalotech.com/products/network-storage/terastation/terastation-pro-ii) for the client. This storage device, which I found through an online reseller for a little over $1,000, has capabilities that would have been significantly more expensive not long ago--and out of the range of most non-technology savvy small businesses.

I configured the TeraStation Pro II as a RAID 5 device with four hot-swappable Serial ATA (SATA) drives and USB expansion capabilities. The TeraStation Pro II’s basic configuration also includes backup software and 1000Base-T network connectivity. I built the client a storage device that can easily support their application’s video storage requirements, has a high level of reliability (even without a firm policy regarding regular backups), and can move data to offline storage (using USB attached hard drives as a backup destination).

Advanced storage technologies are coming down in price. Even small business users, who are often ignored by the major storage vendors, now have an excellent selection of products targeted at their needs and pocketbooks.

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